Statement by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS.
Throughout the pandemic, we have taken a precautionary approach towards international travel because of the risks of contracting coronavirus while abroad and importing new forms of the virus into the UK.
We have advised people to only travel overseas if their journey is essential and have urged people to consider a holiday in the UK.
Thanks to the success of our fantastic vaccination programme, the vast majority of adults in Wales have now completed the primary, 2-dose course of the Covid-19 vaccine. In addition, more than 1.8 million adults have the added protection of a booster dose or, in the case of immuno-suppressed adults, a third primary dose, providing essential extra protection against the omicron variant.
Around the world, efforts to vaccinate the world's population are continuing. The World Health Organisation has recently reported that a shipment of 1.1 million Covid-19 vaccines to Rwanda included the billionth dose supplied via COVAX. However, we recognise that, in many parts of the world, more needs to be done to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines and the roll-out of vaccinations.
As we move beyond the Omicron wave of Covid-19 we will also see a greater opportunity for individuals to return to making decisions based on their own circumstances. On that basis, and because of the vaccination success set out above, we will no longer advise people to only travel overseas if their journey is essential.
Instead, we are asking everyone considering booking trips abroad to think of their own personal and family circumstances and how best they can keep themselves safe if they decide to travel abroad this year. We urge all those who are vulnerable to take extra precautions to stay safe.
If you are planning on travelling overseas:
- Check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website for the specific entry requirements for the country you are travelling to - these include Covid-19 vaccines and testing requirements.
- Check the specific requirements for children and young people under 18 in the country you are travelling to.
- Check the coronavirus situation in the country you are travelling to before you travel.
- Stay safe while you are away by following the same measures which help keep you safe while you are at home.
- Check and follow the entry requirements for returning home to the UK - these are available on the Welsh Government website.
- Once you return home, consider taking some extra precautions to keep you, your friends and family safe, including taking a lateral flow test before visiting vulnerable family members; space out visits and social events and if you experience coronavirus symptoms, isolate and take a test.
We continue to raise our concerns with the UK government about the speed at which it has removed public health protections in relation to international travel and the progressive erosion of such protections.
The unravelling of the system of international arrival surveillance in particular, leaves a major gap in future protections. We continue to advocate a more precautionary approach towards retaining these public health protections because of the ongoing risk of importing new variants of Covid-19 through international travel.
However, in view of the significant practical difficulties associated with diverging from the arrangements in England in this area - a significant number of Welsh travellers use English airports and ports - we are reluctantly retaining alignment with the decisions made by the UK government and agreed by the other devolved governments.
While aligning, we will be taking the following actions to help reduce the risk of new variants being imported in future:
- Implement measures to encourage travellers arriving into Wales to take a lateral flow test, plus a follow-up PCR test if positive.
- Maintain clear advice and guidance for international travellers.
- Continue to press the UK government to maintain, a robust surveillance system in the UK which uses our excellent system for sequencing positive test results to monitor for variants and rapidly assess their effects.
- Where any new Variant of Concern is detected, press for fast action to slow spread into the UK and allow as much time as possible for protections to be implemented.
- Press for the effectiveness of vaccine doses and the time periods after which additional doses would be needed to provide protection in the context of international travel to be kept under review.
Following these changes, fully-vaccinated arriving travellers will not be required to take a test on or before day 2 and unvaccinated arriving travellers will not be required to take a day 8 test or self-isolate for 10 days following arrival.
From 4am on Friday 11 February:
- Fully vaccinated passengers (who have had their full primary courses) will no longer need a pre-departure test 2 days before travelling to the UK. The only requirement will be for them to complete a Passenger Locator Form
- Unvaccinated travellers or ineligible travellers should complete a Passenger Location Form, a pre-departure test within 2 days of their scheduled departure, and a PCR arrival test taken on or before day 2
- All under-18s, regardless of their vaccination status, can now enter the UK without a pre-departure test. However, if you are travelling abroad with children we would urge you to check the different requirements for children, including if they need to be fully vaccinated.
Vaccine certificates issued by the vast majority of countries are now recognised, with a further 16 countries being added to this list.